Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Expanding Friendships

For many years I had seven best friends.  I called them My Magnificent Seven. But times change.  One of my seven died, for example.   Recently I realized that those framed photos of the seven were not as relevant as they once were, that my Seven had shifted.   

I have two new young friends (one under fifty, one just turned fifty) who are both graphic artists.  I met them both through the mifflettes. I met Susy first, specifically because the One -in-Seven friend who was dying at the time, had to cancel a rendezvous.   Quite miserable, sad and lonely, I sighed and attended a gallery opening I'd been invited to in Boston instead of the rendezvous.  It was for Susy, the friend in the foreground here.   
It was love at first sight.   I loved Susy's art (her show that was opening) and she loved my mifflettes which were sold at the gallery.   She ordered two; I bought two of her bags.  

Fast forward a couple of months.  Susy invited me to participate in a holiday show at her house. That's where I met Jan, the friend in the background, in the middle.  At the very end of the evening we made  a connection over Buddha, the Buddha celebrated by her late husband, Buddha painted one hundred times by him.   

Inspired by his paintings, I went on to create soft sculptures of Buddha.    Jan and I collaborated to market them.    They were sold at another gallery, where they sold out.   I made one final one, especially for Jan, out of one her late husband's sweaters,  my Buddha swan song. 

 Now I seem to have finished the Buddha period, but maintain my friendships with these wonderful women.   I don't see them that often but when I do, the chemistry abounds.   In my old age, I realize how friendships shift and change, how lonely we'd be if we didn't incorporate new people into our circle.  I have to consider what to call my current group of closest friends since I no longer feel that Magnificent Seven covers the territory.   

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Balancing Act

Once upon a time I started this blog to figure out grandparenting. I didn't fall naturally into the role. It's been a struggle, but then why shouldn't it be, as I've been rather circumspect even in early childhood.

We spend at least a month on the West Coast escaping winter weather in the Northeast, and helping our grandchildren who have two full time working parents. The challenge for me is to find a balance between feeling fulfilled, helpful, productive, creative and connected. Being here means that I see the grandkids and their parents every day, but I have no adult relationships outside the family. I am not in my home climate surrounded by my "stuff" either.

The situation makes me aware of how relationship dependent I am. I wilt when I don't get a daily dose of connections. I once was told I needed to learn how to fill myself up, not depend on others for my well being. I'm ever curious about this. Does this mean that I have an addiction, that I need to disconnect myself in order to learn to be more self-sufficient?

Two of my oldest friends and artists go inward to their art when they feel vulnerable. Is this a strategy I could adopt? I have indeed tried this and in past years have had long term projects that kept me invigorated intellectually and creatively.

Another part of me thinks, What else is there besides relationships, caring for others, connecting?

Meanwhile, every day has some sparkle, some beauty, some awe. Spending time outside every day and hearing the birds, observing the surrounding exotic plant life, connecting even with strangers is rewarding.

I managed to create a new hat yesterday from scraps of cashmere and few baubles and beads. I finished knitting one mitten for a certain family member. Lydia Davis's short stories are brood-worthy before sleep.

Zach was home sick today and we played many a game of Parcheesi, Crazy Eights, and Mancala.

The best I can do at this point is continue to live into the question, over and over, trying to figure out this one lifetime I have to serve others and to fulfill myself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

'Tis the Season

It's the season for giving and receiving and I think I've finally gotten the hang of how to be at ease with both. It wasn't always so. For example, my mother used to love giving me fresh white Carters underpants as a holiday gift. Instead of being grateful for these lovely soft white panties, I was ungrateful and wished I was given something I really wanted.

I was not a good gift recipient. I wished and wished to receive things I wanted rather than things others wanted me to have. Looking back now, I think how lovely it was to have a mother who would annually refresh my supply of undies so I wasn't stuck with greying or yellowing, holey and stained ones.

My friend Karen gave me a good talking to, when I was into my fifth decade. So many birthdays and Christmases gone by, and finally I was ready to learn. She explained that gifts are not about wish fulfillment, nor about need. They are EXTRAS. It is the recipient's job to see the beauty in each choice, to accept it graciously and lovingly and honor the donor for remembering us.

When my daughter got married, she did not have a registry like so many people do these days. In her opinion, having people choose for her was more of an honor, more exciting and more thoughtful than just fulfilling someone's wish list. Carefully she integrated each gift into her household and life. I was impressed and wished to be like her. I needed to grow and change in this area.

My dear departed Maggie was another fabulous gift recipient. What a pleasure it was to give to her! Everything she received left her breathless. She responded as the most innocent child to each gift, as if it were amazing and the most delightful thing she could imagine.

I think that if she had received those undies from my mom, she would have taken them to her cheek and rubbed them softly with her eyes closing, declaring them utterly soft and pristine. She would have made my mother feel as if she knew JUST what she needed.

Slowly I have adapted. I can't say that I have turned around completely. Often people choose what they themselves would like, rather than what the recipient would like. If I had read the cards right, I would have given Mom white undies too!

Giving gifts has become easier for me too. I don't strive to find the absolute perfect gift for everyone nor try to determine what they want and shop endlessly for it. Instead I do my best and take real pleasure thinking of the THEM that I know and choosing accordingly.

My friend, Margaret, likes to recollect early Christmases with her hard-working, single parent mom. The last week for Christmas they would take a paltry sum of money out on the town and choose small thoughtful gifts for everyone on their list. Margaret recalls how little money was spent and how much pleasure gained, year after year.

It isn't that wish lists are wrong or bad, that registries are either. I actually appreciate them at times. I like to be able to choose when to use them and when not to, which of course I can! and I keep a wish list myself for those who like using them. It's just that my expectations are different now.

I'd like to say, Do yourself a favor and don't sweat it this season. Have fun. Enjoy underspending and cavorting through fun merchandise for gifts. You could probably do a fair job by just gong to the hardware store!

Or follow the advice of Karen's childhood neighbors, the Harpers - Everyone gets one thing they need, one thing they want and one surprise. What a great rule for parents to follow. Keep the expectations low and the kids will ultimately be happier. They'll still get gifts from relatives which are extras.

When you open your own gifts, try to behave as a child who is underprivileged and is thrilled with anything at all. That's my hard won advice.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Small Town Cheer-Up

I've been in a bit of a funk for a couple of days, but we needn't go into that here. Instead, let me tell you how I got cheered up by going out into our teeny tiny town center.

First I went to the library to return a book. Not that I needed anything more to read, but just in case there was something irresistible, I spun the tower of New Purchases. I found two quirky titles that I thought would amuse an internet friend, so I took their photos.

The previous night, I had read her blog, MothersOfBrothers, about how annoyed she is with the overuse of the word "annoying." Here was the perfect book for her!

Who doesn't love our lovable library? With it's huge orientals, antique table and chairs, lovely view of the lake, and entertaining librarian, one always feels at home here. In the basement, the end of a week long used book sale was culminating in the famous Dollar a Bag sale. Yes, I managed to fill a bag with what seem to be treasures and here I am reading them this evening. Mostly children's books, prized for their illustrations, I am drooling, sorting them out for each granchild, saving some, selling some. Thank you master used book sale guru, Jane! She had saved many jewels just for me.
Next stop: Gen'l Store. I needed traditional chocolate chips. Though there were none of the exact type I wanted, the ever-pleasing owner, Julie, said she'd share some from her own personal kitchen stash. She got her giant bag and siphoned off two cups worth for me. Gee! How fabulous was that?

Did you know our Gen'l Store sells hunting sweaters for DOGS? YES! Julie and Ian the owners aim to please!

Last of all, as I prepared to drive out into traffic, waiting for an opportune moment, a Mini passed and waved to me; I waved back. It was my FIRST EVER MINI WAVE!

Homeward bound, I felt immensely better and recovered from my funk.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Barkcloth Treasure!

Off on a jaunt with local friends, I thought it unlikely that I would find any new additions for my textile collection. We weren't in the vicinity of flea markets or large quantities of used vintage items and there was little time to browse leisurely among vendors. One store did have a sizable collection of linens, almost entirely tatted hankies, or embroidered napkins and damask tablecloths. But there was one exception and I found it - this long bark cloth table runner of a park scene.

Sweethearts are holding hands on a park bench, a nanny with a halo pushes a baby in a perambulator with a halo while a terrier watches them pass by. The tidy village from which they come adorns the foreground, with gingerbread Victorian houses, evergreen and deciduous trees.
On the other half a band concert is playing next to an equestrian statue, a crowd gathered wearing capes and berets, full skirts and suits. A soldier leans casually on a tree, while the ice cream man sells Italian ices to parched villagers.

I love my new treasure! I purchased it as an investment to sell, but all too quickly I am falling in love...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Finally Broke Down

The handkerchiefs in the NEW Handkerchief Collection are unbearably beautiful, therefore I haven't been able to bring myself to use them. They're stored in a box that was my grandfather's; a grandfather I met only a handful of times before he died in 1949.

But today I impulsively grabbed a matching-my-vest Jeanne Miller one and stuffed it in my pocket for my run. Wowzers! I LOVED having it. I must have used it a dozen times, when usually I'd employ a disgusting method I won't describe.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Basically I don't understand the point of collecting. I've definitely done it myself, even though I don't get it. Somehow it seems stupid. materialistic. greedy. What's the point? and what do you do with the stuff? The money spent could always be put to much better use.

But boy, once I get interested in certain items, I get obsessed with amassing more. I have to admit this has all occurred in later years, the deep empty nest years. I notice that there are a lot of silver haired collectors.

One of my first collections was sterling silver and turquoise insect pins, mostly vintage from Mexico. EBay has made collecting much easier. That's never how I get my first collection item, but I can't resist seeing what is out there, once something starts. This must also be indicative of retirement years. I HAVE THE TIME.

Some more of my collections have been Japanese postcards after an exhibit at the Boston MFA, huipiles from Guatemala to wear when I thought I was fat (not very), and the biggest of all, TERRIERS as anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge Terrierist. All because of Fenway, my little Welsh Terrier and Nipper, my childhood Scottish Terrier.

During an attic cleaning for a community yard sale this weekend, I found quite a spate of mid sized stuffed terriers. I decided to sell them on eBay to support my newest collection, Hankies, or Handkerchiefs. Sixteen lots on eBay all ready to go. It was a massive amount of work, to photgraph them, measure them, describe them, acquire boxes for them, packing materials and bags to place them in, weigh them for postage and measure boxes, and then list them. They're ready to hit the auction block tonight.

Bully pulled my heartstrings years ago, even though he is not a terrier. Look at that face! Who could resist? Not me. But it's time for him to come out of hiding in the attic and find a new home.

What about this little face? Her chest is ripped and she can barely stand, but maybe someone will take her in, based on her expression, and give her some TLC.
All the way from Japan, came this dynamic duo. I couldn't bear to separate them so listed them together, maybe as cousins?
And these charming French kitties are priceless. (probably NOT) One of them has a music box that still works in her chest! Again, would I split up these two? NEVER.
Foxy is surely a Steiff but without i.d. His pose is so classic, so perfect. He is as naughty at they come (the way I like them) and ready to bite into an electrician's pants, one who is trying to drill and work at our house. (Did Fenway do that? YES.)

Now on to the latest collection, my motivation for selling the critters: HANKIES! I have acquired a few.
This is a limited edition Pucci which he made as a Christmas card for friends and associates. It was not disclosed as such when I bid on it and I was the only bidder. That was because the person listing it said it had "Italian or some other language on it," and didn't realize who or what it was. I didn't bid knowingly, just thought it was charming, appealing and cheap. Only days later did the writing click with me and I checked it against a Pucci scarf I have - Yip, the signature matched - Emilio- throughout. This is my best buy so far.
Second best is this zodiac hankie done by Tammis Keefe. She is a highly sought after designer who was popular in the fifties. She died at age 47 in the early sixties and her work is very desirable, not to mention thoroughly whimsical. I want MORE, but her pieces are expensive. This one was inexpensive and again, I was the only bidder. It's heavenly.
Jeanne Miller has done some traditional and then some whimsical work. This one I might have overpaid for because I love the graphics, but it DOES have quite a few pinholes in it.
Most of Ann McCann's work is not that appealing to me, but I fell in love with this one. The drawing is child like and near genius to me. I can't classify the figures - angels? Doesn't matter, they're cute, cute, cute. I have no interest in lace or hearts or flowers or serious themes.
Faith Austin is a little too traditional for my taste, but this one pleased me because of the googly eyed fish. And it's brand new with attached label.
Lastly my favorite of all, which I could not resist and paid a whopping $33. Ants dancing in the rain under colorful mushrooms? PLEASE! I'm all yours, Jean Hanau. French NOT Japanese as one would expect these days.

Can any reader think of a single justification for collecting? If so, please respond.